Abby Bishop was in the prime of her basketball career when she was faced with the biggest decision of her life – and just seconds to make it.
Her sister Chloe had just given birth but was ill and not capable of raising the child, which faced being taken into care by the Department of Human Services officers.
Bishop was a star basketball player for the Canberra Capitals and Australian Opals, just 24 years old and with the world at her feet, but knew her responsibility to family trumped her sporting career.
So she stepped up to take on the role as little Zala’s guardian, and hours later she was huddled in a motel room with a newborn, wondering what to do next.
‘I still remember the moment there were two DHS officers standing there with clipboards — I said, “No, she’s not going to foster care, she’s coming with me”, I absolutely did not think twice, she’s family,’ Bishop told the Herald Sun.
‘I had nothing for a baby, literally had to go to Kmart and grab bottles and I bought a cheap pram and some blankets and clothes and nappies.
‘Mum used to own a motel in Darwin, so I got a room for free and here I was by myself in a hotel with a two-day-old.’
Bishop is now back in Australia playing for the Southside Flyers in the WNBL – and her daughter Zala (pictured together) is her biggest fan
Bishop (pictured playing for the Australian Opals in 2012) was a rising basketball star, but had to make the enormous decision to stand down from the 2014 World Championships to prioritise caring for her daughter
Since Bishop made the life-changing decision to adopt her niece the pair have travelled the world and forged a bond that cannot be broken
Bishop did not have much time to collect her thoughts and was thrust into the role of both parent and professional basketball player immediately.
‘I was in my basketball prime, playing well and I was sh***ing myself about how the club would react,’ she said.
Amazingly, Bishop was back on the court just two days later with her new baby on the sideline.
The pair would go on to travel the world together, but they faced major hurdles which forced Bishop to the brink of ending her international career.
‘Zala wasn’t allowed to be anywhere, near anything while I was with the Opals,’ Bishop said.
‘That was really disturbing.
‘It blew my mind to the point where I made a stand and decided to quit.
‘I couldn’t get my mind around why Basketball Australia wouldn’t support me and help me; for years, basketball was my life.’
Bishop enjoys family time with her daughter Zala and her mother, who has been a huge support over the past 10 years
Bishop was just a 24-year-old woman at the peak of her basketball powers when faced with the enormous decision with Department of Human Services officers standing by
Bishop withdrew from the 2014 World Championships, but her bold stance forced Basketball Australia into a rethink and provisions for players with children were much improved.
‘I didn’t do it for recognition, I don’t get any recognition, but I look at all the mums who are reaping the rewards from my sacrifice and it makes me happy,’ she said.
‘If I didn’t make that stand and quit the national team, then things probably wouldn’t have changed.’
But the biggest challenge came the day Zala became old enough to Google – and found out the true story of her birth and biological mother.
‘You’re not my real mum,’ she declared.
It was a question Bishop knew would one day come, but was never truly prepared for.
‘I was playing for Bologna in Italy and Zala was going to an Italian school and she wasn’t yet aware — I was still just Mum,’ Bishop said.
‘I’d spoken to quite a few people about when is the right time to tell her but everybody had said to me ‘you’ll know when to do it, when your guts tells you’.
‘But I didn’t get the chance to plan it. My first instinct was to say ‘no, no, no, that’s not true’, because I didn’t know what to do, it was just so sudden.
Bishop is still playing professional basketball 10 years later in a career that has included an Olympic bronze medal and three WNBL championships
Bishop celebrates her 34th birthday with Zala, 10 years after she made the split-second decision to adopt her niece
‘The next day, I said ‘Zaaals’ and then we sat down and had a big chat and I explained everything to her.
‘She’s always been quite mature but she did go quiet for a little bit and you could see her little brain ticking over.
‘She asked a couple of questions and then that’s it, she hasn’t really brought it up again with me.
‘I’m just mum and I think she’s only said once ‘You’re not my real mum’ when she was in trouble.
‘I’m glad it happened like that now. It didn’t change things between us at all and it allowed me to tell her the whole story.’